Gujarat polls: Mellowed Hardik ready to discuss EBC with Congress
Patidar leader Hardik Patel is expected to meet Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi during his visit to Gujarat starting November 1 and announce an alliance.GujaratElection2017 Updated: Oct 30, 2017 22:38 IST
Hardik Patel-led Patidars are willing to consider the Congress proposal of providing 20% reservation to economically weaker classes (EBCs) through a Constitutional amendment, a group’s spokesperson said on Friday, even as their meeting with the main opposition party seeking their support for forthcoming polls remained inconclusive.
The Patidar leaders, however, decided to withdraw their threat to disrupt Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s rally in Surat on November 3, an indication of forward movement in the first round of talks.
Patel, who did not participate in the meeting but has been seeking other backward classes (OBCs) reservation for his community, said he was ready for a “compromise”.
“We do not want to damage the quota of any OBC community,” Patel said. “If EBC quota is given, it should be constitutionally valid. We will further hold talks with the Congress and are we are ready to compromise.”
Congress leader Siddharth Patel said they were exploring constitutional options to meet their (Patidars’) demand.
The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) was called for talks to finalise the basis for supporting the Congress in assembly polls. Patel is expected to meet Gandhi during his visit to the state starting November 1 and announce an alliance. Patel said the PAAS core committee will decide if he should meet Gandhi.
Patidars have been up in arms against the BJP government seeking reservation benefits in government jobs and college admissions. The Gujarat government’s 10% EBC reservation to them through an Ordinance was struck down by Supreme Court.
“I will prefer to get my head chopped or life imprisonment. But there is no question of supporting the BJP, which killed our brothers,” Patel said, referring to the deaths of 13 Patidar youths in police firing during violent protests in 2015.
PAAS co-convener, Alpesh Kathiria, said that the issue of EBC reservation was discussed among others at the meeting.
“The BJP government has formed Non-Reserved Classes commission, but only through a general resolution and can be struck down anytime. The Congress has assured its formation legally. But we both need some time to get clarity over technical issues. The second round of talks will be held soon,” Kathiria said.
Another PAAS team member said the Congress, if voted to power, has promised ₹35 lakh financial aid to family of Patidar youths killed in the 2015 firing and withdrawal of all police cases, including those of sedition. Patel and his five aides face sedition charges. “Sedition cases will be definitely withdrawn along with other cases,” said Congress leader Siddharth Patel.
The BJP had recently withdrawn over 400 cases but not of sedition. The Congress has promised to form a special investigation team to inquire into allegations of atrocity by police in 2015.
“The government did not listen to us. And if we talk to opposition, does that make us Congress’s agents?’’ Patel asked.